It’s “that time of the month”-- You’re cramped, bloated and annoyed. You need a hot water bottle and no interruptions – just some me time to curl up in a ball and let it pass. If only fitness and period trackers just calculated that you were burning 500 calories per hour when your periods are on! Life would be so different. But, since we can only wish for these things, it’s time to look at this situation practically.
Periods are a normal physiological phenomenon. It’s 2021, and there are still a lot of myths and taboos around periods. This thinking also impacts women’s efforts towards their fitness journey. Lots of women still think twice before working out during their periods. This need not be the case, according to our expert Dr. Vinutha Sasalatti.
It is imperative to do what the body says. If you feel like a day’s rest would help you, then go ahead. If you want to exercise, then maybe modify it such that you are comfortable.
Busting Common Myths Around Working Out During Your Period
- It is unsafe. Unless you suffer from severe cramping and bleeding, there is no proven scientific reason to avoid working out at this time.
- You have low energy levels, so it is best to avoid working out. Estrogen and Progesterone are at their lowest, however, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise at all!
- You burn more calories during this time. While this sounds ideal, it’s not true. You burn calories when you exercise or are doing any aerobic activity.
Are There Benefits To Working Out During Your Periods?
If you adhere to your routine and adapt it to your cycle, regular exercise can help ease many of the symptoms associated with periods. For instance, working out during your periods:
- Decreases PMS symptoms like fatigue, mood swings, and bloating that usually start at 1-2 weeks .
- Reduces menstrual cramps and elevates your mood because of endorphins release (the feel-good hormone).
- Manages the signs of anxiety, depression.
There are also long-term benefits of regular exercise like keeping hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, chronic heart conditions, obesity and hormonal imbalances (PCOS) under control.
How To You Choose Your Workout?
Being realistic and listening to your body goes a long way in helping you decide on whether you want to walk or run a few kilometers. It is also perfectly fine to relax once in a while on the couch, with a hot bag and some TV if the body demands some pampering. The key is to enjoy what you are doing and being guilt-free!
What To Avoid?
Exercising during periods should not put extra stress on the body or cause pain. Though not proven, you can avoid doing inverted yoga positions including handstands, shoulder stands, or legs on the wall. These exercises could encourage blood flow to the opposite direction of where it’s supposed to go.
Also, avoid strenuous prolonged exercises and stop when you feel too much pain or fatigue.
Maximise Your Comfort
The first thing is to find a menstrual product that suits your workout. For instance, if you swim, a tampon or menstrual cup would be a better option than disposable pads. You can even combine products to avoid staining on your clothes. Use what works for you.
The key is to adjust your exercises to suit you. It is difficult to work out at full intensity all the time because of your changing hormones. Try adjusting the intensity and duration of your exercises for the best outcome.
My top recommendations are:
- Walking – low-impact, easy, can control time and speed, no special equipment, clothing or location needed.
- Light cardio – something simple and for a short duration like jogging, cycling, swimming or aerobics.
- Strength training – lighter weights than usual but only if you are comfortable.
- Yoga/Pilates – gentle stretching and balancing that relaxes muscles and could help reduce muscle tension and stress thus helping with cramps and pain.
If you enjoy exercising, there is no reason to disrupt your workout routine when on your periods. It doesn’t have to be a high-intensity, hardcore workout - just keep it moving and vary your workouts according to your energy levels. Take some time to recover and finally, honour what you are capable of!